For trips out, you are spoilt for choice. Hemingway’s favourite town in all Spain, Ronda, with its extraordinary gorge dividing the old and new quarters, is just 15 minutes away. With its mansion houses, quaint narrow streets, museums and art galleries and Spain’s oldest bullring, it is well worth visiting.
Here you are on the doorstep of the Grazalema National Park, one of the most beautiful tracks of mountain anywhere in Europe. Jagged peaks, gorges, chasms, faults and caves, underground rivers and deep canyons are interspersed, here and there, by some of the prettiest villages in Spain – Grazalema, Zahara, Setenil and the other famous “pueblos blancos”.
Houses are meticulously whitewashed to a state of pristine splendour, a dazzling contrast to the brightly coloured flowers which fill the streets and the ochres of their rocky mountain perches. Beautiful villages which demand you to slow down a pace or two.
Take the dramatic little mountain road from Zahara which climbs high into the mountains and on to Grazalema. From here you can head west, crossing right over the magnificent sierras, thickly forested with cork oak and Spanish fir, to Arcos de la Frontera on the other side.
A visit to La Cueva de la Pileta cave to see its 25,000 year old troglodyte paintings is another must.
On the wide, blue waters of the Embalse de Zahara (it’s a reservoir but you would never know), you can swim or just enjoy the beautiful views all around from one of the little bars which open up in summer on the lake shore.
For something completely different, Sevilla takes 1½ hours. It is impossible not to be captivated by its exuberant atmosphere: stylish, confident, ancient and proud, yet also convivial, intimate and fun-loving. If you don’t know what alegría means, Sevilla is the place to learn!
Spain’s unique sherry wine region (Jerez and Sanlúcar), is well worth a visit, enhanced no doubt by stopping at one or two of the famous bodegas along the way! Jerez de la Frontera is 1¼ hours.
Cádiz (1¾ hours) continues to evoke the romance, intrigue and mystery of centuries of trade (some legal, some not so) between Europe, Africa and the Americas.
Beyond lie mile upon mile of magnificent white beaches on Spain’s Atlantic coast, La Costa de la Luz.
Córdoba and Granada are both 2½ hours drive from here.
There are few better places in Europe than the Sierra de Grazalema to enjoy walking and hiking. We recommend “Walking in Andalucía” by Guy Hunter-Watts which includes six fabulous walks in the nearby countryside. The wonderful mountain terrain is equally facinating for twitchers, especially for spotting the big raptors.
The adventurous may want to try their hand at hang gliding or paragliding from Sierra de Lijar, just up the road at Algodonales. The village recently staged the World Paragliding Championships and is home to a number of paragliding schools with courses for beginners as well as tandem flights.
Horse trekking into the high sierra can be arranged at local stables.
Bicycle hire is easily arranged in Ronda. There are excellent cycle ways in the area including the Via Verde which runs along an abandoned railway line as well as far more challenging tracks for mountain biking.
Different water sports are on offer on the Zahara lake. Swimming is also possible at a number of secluded coves along the lakeside.
There is no more thrilling way of viewing the Ronda mountains than from a balloon. End your once-in-a-lifetime flight with a champagne breakfast overlooking Ronda’s old town.